When you think of major space missions conducted by NASA in the last 20 years, it is a good bet that Aprille Joy Ericsson played an important role in their success. Aprille is an aerospace engineer and instrument manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center located just outside Washington, DC where she has used her skills to conduct simulations on spacecraft designs in order to understand how these crafts perform during flight and how their propulsion systems will function.
The simulations allow her and other engineers to determine if any changes should be made to the construction and design of the spacecraft.
In addition, since 2010, she has served as Senior Deputy Instrument Manager on the ICESat-2 Atlas rocket. Currently she is designing and testing high-tech instruments that will help spacecrafts map the lunar surface in preparation of future moon exploration voyages.
Her desire to become an aerospace engineer was spawned in high school when she visited an Air Force base in New Hampshire as part of a science outreach program for people of color. At the base, she was able to sit in the aircraft control tower and fly in a flight simulator, even receiving a pilot’s score.
Aprille has also been a trailblazer: she is the first African American female to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University, and the first African American female at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Aprille is also a noted motivational speaker, especially in inspiring other women to pursue leadership roles in science, engineering and other fields. Her speaking credits include: speaking in 2010 at the White House to the First Lady’s Mentoring Program for High School Girls; addressing Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, and serving two consecutive years as International Speaker for the annual Women in Engineering Conference in South Africa.
In 1997, she won a “Women in Science and Engineering” award for the best female engineer in the federal government.
Consistent with her desire to grow professionally, Aprille continues to have lofty goals. “My future career objectives include serving as a mission specialist for the NASA astronaut program, and as an adviser or liaison to the White House for Science, Technology and Education Policies,” she says.
And another important goal: “I feel obligated to continue to help spur the interest of minorities and females in the math, science and engineering disciplines. Without diversity in all fields the United States will not remain technically competitive.”